Low-cost airline SpiceJet operated its first long-haul flight from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in a bid to repatriate Indian citizens. The trip, from Amsterdam to Bengaluru, took place on August 1st, carrying 270 Indians. Then, the aircraft will make its way to Hyderabad, reaching today.
This is a massive deal for the Indian airline, as it previously only operated domestic and short to medium-haul international flights – mainly to locations in the Middle East.
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Both flights utilized a wide-bodied A330-900neo aircraft that was wet-leased from Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly. The A330-900neo also can fly nonstop to Europe and the US.
SpiceJet's very first wide-bodied long haul flight, connecting Europe with India, has taken off from the Amsterdam Airport, repatriating 270 Indians from all over Europe.
This flight ushers in a new era for us. With this we can now connect India with the entire world.@SonuSood pic.twitter.com/3UJfGRdQJP
— SpiceJet (@flyspicejet) August 1, 2020
To quote a SpiceJet spokesperson via Times of India,
“This A330-900 can do India-US non-stop. We plan to utilize it initially for charters to wherever the demand is for. Later, it may be used for scheduled flights under the travel bubbles India is forming with some countries. That is an option. For now, it will be used for charters that can be booked by any organization or NGO.”
Wet leasing occurs when an airline acts as a lessor, providing another carrier with an aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance. A wet lease agreement is usually done for short-term ventures.
In this case, Hi Fly leased wide-bodied aircraft such that SpiceJet could operate its international repatriation flights. Simple Flying also reported that the budget carrier has a wet lease with Oman Air. The Middle Eastern airline will supply the budget carrier with at most three A330s to conduct flights to the UK.
SpiceJet is not new to the act of wet leasing. In February this year, it leased two Airbus A320s from Bulgarian airline BH Air. The main reason is to meet capacity demands, as most of its 737 MAX aircraft had been grounded.
Flying to Europe and the US
July was an eventful month for SpiceJet. It gained approval to fly into the UK and the US.
To date, only Air India flies to the UK. However, with the Vande Bharat Mission putting pressure on the flag carrier to repatriate Indian citizens from the UK, other airlines have looked to this as an opportunity to fly to the state as well. Low-cost airline IndiGo and SpiceJet are both looking to wet lease wide-bodied aircraft such that they can operate services to the UK. SpiceJet will likely utilize Oman Air’s A330s for the repatriation trips.
At the same time, with a travel bubble in the works, British airlines can conduct flights to India. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways will pose fierce competition for the Indian low-cost carriers.
After India established a travel bubble with the US, Air India and SpiceJet are two airlines allowed to offer services between the countries. This makes SpiceJet the first budget airline to operate flights to the US.
SpiceJet’s financial woes
Last week, SpiceJet reported a $108m loss for the quarter ended March 31st. We can expect to see a more significant drop in income for the next quarter, seeing as India banned all international flights at the end of March.
According to a statement seen by Simple Flying, the loss is attributed to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the long-term grounding of its Boeing 737 MAX.
Managing Director and Chairman, Ajay Singh said,
“Two key factors that adversely impacted our performance and bottom line was the COVID-19 pandemic that started affecting demand adversely from mid-February and grounding of the 737 MAX, which has been out of service for over a year now. Despite the year long grounding of the MAX aircraft, SpiceJet ran a profitable operation till COVID hit demand from mid-February.”
It is evident that SpiceJet may not be at its healthiest financially; however, with it increasing flights and services to long-haul destinations, there might be more demand for passengers to choose the low-cost airline. Yet, it still has to compete with other Indian airlines and possibly British airlines to survive.
What do you think of SpiceJet implementing long-haul flights? Do you want to fly with the airline on long-haul routes? Let us know in the comments.